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    Michelin two-starred Chef Riccardo La Perna heads for Macau

    Author: Jocelyn Chen

    The Macau outpost of the one-Michelin-starred 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA has retained its award-winning establishment since 2016. The group’s Shanghai location, on the other hand, with Riccardo La Perna at the helm, received two stars from the Shanghai Michelin Guide on its first entry. Needless to say, Chef Riccardo La Perna is one of the top Italian chefs for me.

    With two Michelin stars under his belt, Riccardo has decided to join 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA Macau after years of experience in Shanghai. He shared that after almost 10 years in Shanghai, it was time to make a change and take on new challenges. At this time, BOMBANA Macau needed a new executive chef and the Shanghai venue was on the right track with a talented professional team. He felt it’s perfect timing to seek out new possibilities.

    Writer Jocelyn Chen and Executive Chef Riccardo La Perna

    Five years have passed since I last wrote about BOMBANA. Riccardo and I have known each other for many years and I have always admired him, not only for his talent and skills, but also for his heartwarming personality, like the gentle Sicilian sun that shines upon everyone around him. I have visited Otto e Mezzo Shanghai regularly since its opening. The sous chef used to joke with me, saying that “Chef will kill you by food” when I was dining there. With the chef’s great hospitality, I remember being well fed by the restaurant creative cooking and refined delicacies.

    Not only does he genuinely care about the quality of the food and the dining experience, but he is also often able to pinpoint problems in the structure of the dishes during discussion. He promotes traditional Italian cuisine made of simple flavours, high-quality ingredients and characterized by a great sense of authenticity. He masters the minimalist expression of perfect complexity while presenting the flavours of the ingredients at their best. He does not go with the flow but sticks to his belief that good food is the way to go.

    Going to Macau and supervising Otto e Mezzo is a big change in life, but Riccardo shared that he is ready to take on any rising challenges. Unlike the megacity Shanghai’s fast-paced lifestyle, Macau is a cosy, small city with a lot of exciting things to do. There are still some regular customers from Shanghai who would come to Macau for him.

    Starters/ Olive Oil from Toscana and Sicily/ Mozzarella Mousse

    In terms of the range of ingredients available, Macau is like the Disneyland for chefs. Here, it’s much simpler to source Italian, French and Spanish produce, as well as some of the best ingredients from China. Seems to be a case of getting the cake and having it all? Apart from long-term good relationships with suppliers in Shanghai, Chef La Perna sources seafood from Japan, France, Italy, and Northern Europe by a smaller proportion thanks to the longer food seasonality in Macau. BOMBANA Macau features a menu that changes on a daily basis, which is made possible through the greater variety of suppliers and ingredients.

    When asked about what the top priority is in redesigning the menu, Chef La Perna said it was to make his diners feel satisfied experiencing BOMBANA’s time-honoured philosophy and his creative dishes while offering authentic Italian cuisine. Other things are relatively simple, given the wider choice of ingredients in Macau, hence more competitive price-wise compared to the Shanghai restaurant.

    Tuna

    Hailing from Sicily, Chef La Perna comes with a treasure trove of particularly outstanding seafood dishes. The Japanese red tuna with beluga caviar, and the seared scallop with black truffles and artichokes emulsion kicked off an excellent start. The lasagne was very impressive, which was made with firm, chewy vegetable pasta sheet richly layered with steamed scampi, chanterelles, scampi sauce and fresh herbs. A dish full of crisp, refreshing and umami flavours.

    Scallop/ Lasagna

    The cavatelli with sea urchin and blue lobster uses homemade cavatelli cooked in a seafood and shellfish broth which depends on what arrives that day. One of his masterpieces from Shanghai, the dish allows you to enjoy the familiar taste of the sea brought to life. The essence of the dish I believe, since I first tried it, has been the fish stock jelly, which is so delicious that it would be a lifelong heartache not to have tasted it. The main course—charred prime lamb rib with eggplant and mint jus—boasts timeless flavours and a touch of Sicilian red wine sauce, a way Chef La Perna expresses his hometown nostalgia.

    Cavatelli/ Te Mana Lamb

    Chef La Perna’s cooking adheres to minimalism, using subtraction to bring out the best in the ingredients, just as his favourite Japanese cuisine. One of the keys to increase complexity is the stock, as in the case of the black truffle tagliatelle cooked in a vegetable stock, adding complexity and subtlety to the overall flavour portfolio. With all these years searching for best flavours around the world, I would like to think that Chef La Perna makes the best version of white truffle pasta and I just LOVE the way he shaves truffles.

    Tagliatelle

    Strictly speaking, Chef La Perna has redefined food with sophistication and soulfulness, and he crafts truly touching flavours that can evoke the purest feelings from the heart. I have visited most of the three Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, but often Chef La Perna’s dishes come to my mind. His cooking is a heart-soothing magic.

    Talking about the difficulties of joining a new restaurant, he said that the first thing to do is getting to know everyone in the kitchen and finding the right spot for each of them. Although it’s only been a month and a half since the reopening, he felt the whole team had been working together for a long time. “There’s a lot of pressure, but we’re working as a team,” he said.

    Lemoncello Sgroppino/Black Truffle Gelato

    BOMBANA Macau is equipped with an enviable team: General Manager Marino Braccu, the former General Manager of BOMBANA Hong Kong; Nancy Wang, one of the best managers from Shanghai’s fine dining scene; Weekie Lee, the former dessert chef at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Shanghai.

    General Manager: Marino Braccu/ Restaurant Manager: Nancy Wang

    Chef La Perna’s BOMBANA Shanghai has always been an irreplaceable restaurant in my mind. It was great to see him in Macau and so many familiar faces working alongside him. Led by such a strong team and driven by Chef La Perna’s enthusiasm and passion for Sicilian food, 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA Macau is bound to collect more stars from the Michelin Guide. I’m told the restaurant has been fully booked for two months ahead since reopening and is undoubtedly the best Italian restaurant in Macau.Looking forward to seeing Chef La Perna usher in another career peak in Macau.

    -END-

    Author:Jocelyn Chen
    Photo:Emily Yang
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